Reviewed by David Savage
In a world of social media and video streaming and YouTube channels it seems more and more people are using cameras to document their entire lives for the world to view. While lots of people use their smartphones to record their videos, lots more are starting to use action cameras. I don’t know much about action cams but everybody has heard of the industry leader, GoPro. My only experience of a GoPro is knowing that they are high end and expensive. I was asked to try out what could be a considered a budget/mid-range price action cam from SJCAM and as I had heard good things about their other cameras, I agreed. All I can say it that I was blown away with the quality and features of a camera that is half the price of its well-known competitor.
SJCAM have launched a new series of action cameras in the ION Series: Carbon, Totem and Krypton. I was sent the Totem to try out. This range of cameras includes built-in WiFi for connecting to mobile devices; allowing for viewing playback of any files via the dedicated SJCAM Zone app. They are marketed as dual camera – action cam and dash cam and have a video resolution of 4K. They also feature a waterproof which isn’t just for going out in the rain, it has a dive depth of up to 30 metres so that you can even film underwater.
The SJCAM ION Series Totem 4K action camera features:
- 2-inch LCD touchscreen
- 166° A+ HD wide-angle lens
- External mic
- [gyro] image stabilisation
- Up to 80 minutes of battery life
- 4K recording at 24fps [interpolated], 2K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps or 30fps and 720p at 120/60/30 fps
- The field of view can be set to wide, middle or narrow
- Removable battery
As I mentioned, I received the ION Series Totem and in the box there is:
- ION Series Totem 4K Action Camera
- Waterproof Case
- Data / Charging Cable
- Curved Mount / Flat Mount
- Cleaning Cloth / Wiper
- Lens Cover
- Base Mount
Firstly, as with any battery-operated device, the camera needs charging. This is done by removing the camera from the waterproof housing and using the suppled USB cable to plug it into a laptop of USB charging plug. I plugged it into my laptop and left it for a couple of hours. It can still be used while charging, you just need to put it in car mode.
Secondly, you will need to add a MicroUSB card so that you can actually record your images (there is onboard storage and a MicroUSB card is not supplied). It can take up to a maximum of 128GB.
Once you have your card installed and the battery fully charged you can set up the camera. The camera has a 2” touchscreen which makes it very easy to use the interface and change settings – everything from frame rate, gyro, car and underwater modes, date and time, and lots more. Once you have set up for your required use, you can place the camera in its waterproof housing and start using.
Once mounted when you need it – on your bike frame, bike helmet, car dashboard etc. switch on and leave it to record. It has up to 80 minutes battery life depending on the settings you are using. Should you just want a still image, you can just press the shutter button on top of the camera to take a picture (has a resolution of up to 16 megapixels).
Should you want to view the recording you can connect via wifi to your smartphone (you will find the SSID and password in the wifi settings on the camera) and use the SJCAM app to view back the videos.
While you are not using the camera while out of your bike or other leisure activities you can also use the camera as a dash cam. By putting the camera into car mode you can power the camera for the USB in your car (if you have one) and record while you are driving, great to record any possible accidents which would be great for insurance reasons.
Should your activities include underwater swimming, this camera is fully waterproof once inside its housing and protects the camera up to depths of 30 metres.
Overall, the SJCAM is a very versatile camera and does so much more than I thought an action cam would do, especially one in this price bracket. The quality of the video and sound is excellent. It is very small and compact and lightweight at only 83 grams.
The 1000mAh battery can last up to 80 minutes, less on the highest settings or wifi on. While a better battery life would be an improvement, I don’t know how you could fit a higher capacity battery in without increasing the overall size and weight of the camera. What I do like about the battery is that it is removable and can be replaced, so you could always carry a spare with you if you need more while out.
The app needs some improvement (some transactions to English weren’t quite correct) but it is easy to use.
The only real niggle I had was with the USB connection, it uses USB Mini-b (5-pin) which is quite old – USB C or even Micro USB would be much better. I just hate having lots of various different USB cables laying around, one standard would be so much easier.
I am extremely impressed with the quality and functions of this camera. It is very easy to use and has high quality image capture. It feels extremely good quality and the fact that it can be used outdoors, in the car and even underwater is fantastic and when the gyro stability is enabled the quality when the camera is moving is just fantastic. It fits very snugly in the waterproof housing and the buttons feel very good.
Definitely an action cam that would make an excellent gift this Christmas, and one that won’t break the bank and doesn’t compromise on quality. Whether from riding your bike, driving or extreme sports it is an excellent piece of piece of kit for recording your adventures or visit to the shop!
For more information visit sjcam.com.